Privacy advocates raise concerns about Facebook’s tracking of even non-users’ habits

Privacy advocates raise concerns about Facebook’s tracking of even non-users’ habits
Facebook is able to monitor the habits of its users and even non-users with the help of tracking tools. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Facebook has been collecting data on its members for years, keeping individual files on internet behavior and “complete consumer profiles.” But their ability to track online users who have never even participated on the social media site has been raising alarms.

In effort to achieve targeted advertising and content, the company says their monitoring efforts also serve security purposes. Using tracking devices like cookies and social media plug-ins, Facebook is able to pinpoint consumers’ individual habits. The company says they’re “industry standard technologies,” and to a large degree, they’re right.

The use of cookies for tracking consumers is nothing new for advertisers, many of whom say it serves the consumer better. Even the government has been known to utilize these tools, but the secrecy (and mystery, for non-techies) behind such practices is what raises the alarms with watchdog groups.

Some countries are also taking issue with how data on their citizens is mined, with a Belgian court ordering the social media giant stop collecting its citizens’ data just a few weeks ago. Facebook plans to appeal the case.

“What Facebook is doing is against Europe’s data protection laws and should be stopped throughout the EU,” said a spokesman for the European Consumer Organization (BEUC).

The social media giant does offer account holders the ability to access and download the information Facebook keeps on them. But that isn’t necessarily a comfort to many individuals and regulatory bodies. An investigation by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is also planning to investigate companies like search engine giant Google and content aggregators.

As new technologies develop, new questions continue to be raised (both online and in court) as to consumers’ rights to privacy. Facebook has been fighting a class-action lawsuit in Illinois,  where plaintiffs allege they violated the privacy of users with the improper collection and storage of biometric data. The suit stems from questions over whether or not the company’s photo scanning technology invades user privacy, and could ultimately lead to more regulations for the firm in the US. Facebook does offer users the ability to opt out of its facial recognition system, but data tracking seems to be here to stay.